AC Milan are just two victories away from winning their first Scudetto title since 2011. However, their mettle will be tested when Atalanta visit the San Siro in Milan for the Serie A encounter on 15th May. Milan have the opportunity to take the penultimate step towards the Serie A crown while the visitors are fighting to secure European football next season.
Hosts AC Milan are now within touching distance of their first league title in almost 11 years. They secured a sensational comeback win over Hellas Verona last week to return to the top of the Serie A table and will be turning heading into the final corner of what has been a thrilling Scudetto race.
Milanese giants AC Milan and Inter have sparred against each other for much of the season. The Rossoneri have a two-point lead over their neighbours and arch-rivals at the top of the standings. With just two matches remaining in the league this season, Stefano Pioli’s side will have the advantage of playing first this weekend. Therefore, if they manage to win against Atalanta, AC Milan can open up a five-point lead at the top over Inter Milan, who are due to play against Cagliari shortly after the conclusion of this particular fixture at the San Siro.
With that being said, things could have been very different for AC Milan at this exact point in time. When Verona captain Davide Faraoni headed in the opening goal of the contest at the Stadio Bentegodi last Sunday, there were reasons to worry for head coach Stefano Pioli and the fans of the club.
That is when Milan midfield maestro Sandro Tonali, a boyhood fan of the club who was also celebrating his birthday, rose to the occasion. Although he had to deal with the frustration of seeing an excellent individual effort get ruled out by VAR earlier on in the game. He went on to find the back of the net once again on either side of the halftime break. Alessandro Florenzi then secured the all-important three points for Milan with a powerful strike after coming off from the bench.
After neighbours Inter Milan ended their run of 13 unbeaten matches in the Coppa Italia semi-finals last month, AC Milan have shown great character and bounced back extremely well. They defeated Lazio, Fiorentina, and Hellas Verona in three successive Serie A matches and are pushing the initiative for the Italian crown heading into the final two rounds of the season.
Even if they manage a stalemate against Atalanta in this widely anticipated fixture at the San Siro, it would see AC Milan finish with more than 80 points in a season for the first time since 2010-11, when they last won the domestic league title. Despite an improvised pairing at the heart of their back four, it has been AC Milan’s resilience in defense, which has been the foundation of their title challenge.
Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu have taken up the mettle to secure Stefano Pioli’s rearguard with Danish defender Simon Kjaer being ruled out with serious injury and Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli falling down the pecking order. AC Milan have also faced the fewest shots on goal in the league this season.
Only Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have conceded less goals than AC Milan in the top five European leagues in 2022. Opponents have been able to score past Milan on only nine occasions in this calendar year. However, Milan have the opportunity to end their rather disappointing streak of seven winless games at home against Atalanta.
The hosts also have history in their favour when they take on the side based out of Lombardy in northern Italy. AC Milan have won 67 of the 140 clashes between the two sides while Atalanta have just 27 wins to their name. 46 games have ended without the two sides being separated.
Atalanta have also suffered defeats in both the last couple of matches against AC Milan in Serie A. Prior to that, they had lost only once in their last 11 fixtures against the Milanese side. They also have a remarkable streak of being undefeated against Milan away from home since January 2014.
Atalanta will be desperate to burst the title-winning hopes of AC Milan and hand them a rude dose of reality when the two sides lock horns on Sunday. However, it has been a strange and wild 2021-22 campaign for Atalanta. Nothing summarises it better than the fact that they have done much well on the road than in their own home in Bergamo.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s side secured a 3-1 win over Spezia last week. Only champions-elect AC Milan and third-placed Napoli have picked up more points away from home this season than Atalanta. However, the fact that they have only won four of their 18 matches at the Gewiss Stadium is a particular cause of concern for the side. It has also undermined their attempts of qualifying for the Champions League for the fourth successive year.
They currently occupy the eighth spot on the table and are level on points with both Fiorentina and AS Roma ahead of the penultimate round of fixtures in Serie A this weekend. However, Gasperini’s are under more pressure because they have a negative head-to-head record against both those teams. Therefore, there is also the possibility that they might even miss Europa Conference League football if they fail to take points from their trip to Milan and next week’s curtain closer at home against Empoli.
The side from Lombardy have also been hamstrung in attack and haven’t been able to find a reliable and consistent goal scorer this season. They have had 20 different scorers in the Italian top flight this season, which is more than any other side and in fact, it is the second-highest total in the league’s 92-year-old long history. Therefore, the reasons behind Gasperini’s men’s struggles are quite apparent over the last few months. However, Luis Muriel and Mario Pasalic have returned back to the fold with goals and hosts Milan cannot afford to take things easy in their final match at the San Siro this season.
ACM vs ATA, Serie A 2021/22
Date: 15th May, 2022
Time: 9:30 PM IST
Venue: San Siro, Milan
AC Milan Serie A form:
AC Milan form (all competitions):
Atalanta Serie A form:
Atalanta form (all competitions):
AC Milan wins: 67
Atalanta wins: 27
AC Milan Team News: Stefano Pioli will be able to count on almost his entire squad as they have little in the way of fresh injury concerns. However, the Italian manager’s primary concern ahead of the crucial encounter on Sunday will be based on selection conundrums. Rade Krunic and former Atalanta player Franck Kessie will battle with Brahim Diaz for a place in attack to support talismanic center-forward Olivier Giroud.
The Frenchman has scored nine goals in the league this season and could become the oldest player to register a double-figure goal tally in his debut Serie A season, overtaking Cristiano Ronaldo’s record by nearly two years. Giroud should also keep his place as the target man in attack as opposed to another veteran star striker in Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has made more impact while coming off the bench.
Only Simon Kjaer, who has missed the bulk of the season owing to his long-term injury, remains out of contention for the Rossoneri. There’s also the possibility that Stefano Pioli might put out the same XI that started against Hellas Verona. However, Ismail Bennacer and Junior Messias will definitely be trying their best to make it to the first XI for this clash.
Atalanta Team News: While Milan have little to no injury concerns to worry about, Atalanta were beyond ecstatic to welcome Duvan Zapata and Giorgio Scalvini to training this week following their respective muscular injuries. However, reserve goalkeeper Marco Sportiello remains a doubt for this match and captain Rafael Toloi could also end up missing the trip to Milan.
Mario Pasalic has done immensely well in midfield and has found the back of the net in each of his last four league appearances. Despite not being a frequent starter, he has been directly involved in 19 goals for Atalanta this season – 13 goals and six assists.
Should Gian Piero Gasperini remain cautious about Zapata and not take the risk of playing him from the start, Zapata’s Colombian teammate Luis Muriel will be leading the line for the side from Bergamo at the San Siro. He needs just one more goal to reach the mark of 50 goals for Atalanta in the Serie A.
AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Hernandez; Tonali, Bennacer; Saelemaekers, Kessie, Leao; Giroud
Atalanta possible starting lineup:
Musso; Djimsiti, Demiral, Palomino; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Zappacosta; Koopmeiners, Pasalic; Muriel
The last meeting between the two sides finished 3-2 with Atalanta pulling back a couple of late goals to find some respectability on the scoreline. However, the stakes are much higher this time around with Milan’s title hopes and Atalanta’s Europe qualifying dreams on the line. This might lead to a much tighter affair with both sides cautious about taking their chances. Even a single goal will end up being decisive on the night and both sides will be eager to seize and capitalize on big opportunities as and when they arrive.